On 28JUN, TIACA held its first ever Regional Symposium. The venue was Amsterdam; about 150 representatives of the cargo industry had appeared.
The unanimous opinion after 8 hours of panels, presentations and statements: the test was successful. Further regional conferences should follow, stated Lutz Honerla, cargo manager at Düsseldorf Airport, for instance. The general impression was that his opinion reflected the view of many.
Only 37 percent
Zig, zag, zog, that's how well orchestrated conferences work. Like TIACA’s Amsterdam event. No long warm-up phase, just straight into the subject matter. And rightly so, because the cargo industry has a lot to discuss, to change, and find lasting solutions for unfinished topics. The organization’s Regional Symposium illustrated those tasks crystal clear. For example, there is a burdensome shortage of labor on all fronts, especially truckers – amounting to hundreds of thousands in Europe in the meantime. But no trucks, no supply chains. It’s as easy as that. Or take global warming and the sustainability issue to decarbonize processes: "Only 37% of companies engaged in air freight have a budget to finance their U-turn from fossil to green,” exclaimed Celine Hourcard, chief executive of Change Horizon, during her presentation. Her agency supports the industry to develop and implement sustainable practices. That's depressing given the importance of the topic, exclaimed madame Hourcard. Shortly before, Niall van de Wouw stood on stage, the co-founder of Clive Data Services, that belongs to Xeneta meanwhile. Niall delivered a wealth of findings. His key message: Supply chain hiccups are here to stay – for quite some time. That’s the bad news. The good news: The modal shift from ocean to air accelerates as port congestions continue, leading to prolonged sailing times, benefitting air transports.
Touching the rate issue, Niall spoke of a flattening out tendency, with prices coming down successively. This trend is mainly triggered by passenger traffic that is going strong primarily in Europe and the U.S., flooding the market with lower deck capacity.
Attracting young talents to join the air cargo industry was another aspect tabled in Amsterdam but with moderate prospects of success.
“Our industry still has a massive reputation problem. The younger generation still thinks of features like loud, dirty and rather boring," said TIACA's Director General Glyn Hughes, calling a spade a spade. And he took this as an opportunity to call for a change in the image of air freight and logistics. Success stories must be told much more strongly, and emotions must be aroused by successful projects. The industry is simply dry as dust and hardly anyone wants to stand in the desert. No, air freight is not sexy, unlike some glittering industries, but it is global, exciting and creative, as its problem-solving strategies showed in the Covid pandemic.
It’s the climate, stupid!
Sustainability and digitalization were the two prominent cross-panel topics dominating the Amsterdam agenda. They ran like red threads through the entire event. TIACA Chief Steven Polmans reminded that only shortly ago his organization had kicked off an environmental initiative dubbed BlueSky program. It’s a multi-tiered platform that consists of three layers and will be launched in phases. "The BlueSky Program aims to benefit not just the individual companies, but future partners and the air cargo industry at large by providing a common vision, transparency, and a mechanism to demonstrate how businesses can grow responsibly as well as an improved image of the air cargo industry," TIACA states.
One airport that is well ahead of this program is Brussels International. "We have been a carbon neutral airport since 2018," said cargo chief Geert Aerts. “Doing business as usual doesn’t work any longer,” he noted. Smarter solution aimed at decarbonizing processes and change from the outdated linear to a circular economy fast, are the imperatives of our time, the executive stated. This was applauded by his predecessor, Steven Polmans who spoke of a “game changer” when touching circular economy aspects. “Airports will only gain broad social acceptance if the quality of the local environment is enhanced through reduced CO2 and noise emissions,” Mr. Aerts added to this.
Royal Hashkoning DHV, a specialist in providing airport studies, has also come a long way on the ecological path, designing low energy consumption terminals and warehouses. “We need to look at individual projects more holistically and in an integrated manner,” stated Joeri Aulman, Region Manager at NACO, Netherlands Airport Consultants. Circularity, zero wase, and powering facilities with solar energy are the names of today’s game when it comes to planning new or refurbish existing buildings on airport.
Glyn and the maties challenge
In a nutshell, the TIACA event was worth attending. It delivered a wealth of information. There was sufficient room for networking to make new contacts or deepen existing ones. Especially suitable for this was the cocktail cruise with a vessel navigating through some basins of Amsterdam harbor, ending the event in the evening. But prior to the tour, one person got to know an old Dutch tradition: TIACA’s Glyn Hughes. He was handed a Maties Herring by a lady, which he had to swallow in one piece, i.e. without chewing. Result of the test: Glyn passed the "Haringhappen challenge" brilliantly, applauded by those present. Since, the Welshman is an honorary Dutchman.
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